For Young Readers

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By Elizabeth Ward
Sunday, June 17, 2007

A GOOD DAYBy Kevin Henkes Greenwillow. $16.99 (ages 2-4)

This sublimely simple book takes Judith Viorst's 1972 classic, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, distills its essence, then adds an upbeat ending for tetchy preschoolers. Four creatures are having Alexander moments: A little yellow bird has lost a tail feather, a little white dog got her leash entangled in a fence, a little orange fox can't find his mother, and a little brown squirrel has dropped her nut. But through luck, love, determination or just a change of attitude, each sees a bad day become good. The fat black outlines Henkes used to such striking effect in Kitten's First Full Moon are reprised here in brown ink, then filled in with pretty-as-a-rainbow watercolors.

HAS ANYONE SEEN MY EMILY GREENE?By Norma Fox Mazer Candlewick. $15.99 (ages 3-6)

"Is she under the rug? Behind the chair? On top of the desk? Way up in the air? I can't find her anywhere." Every little girl should have a dad like Emily Greene's, a guy who turns a summons to lunch into a high-and-low pretend search, with theatrical running commentary. Every child -- make that all of us -- should get to feel the love that envelops Emily when she's finally "found": "My clever, my funny, my lovely, my sunny. My daughter so dear. My Emily Greene. . . right here." Christine Davenier's pictures are as brimful of energy and affection as the text.

LITTLE DONKEY AND THE BIRTHDAY PRESENTBy Rindert Kromhout Translated from the Dutch by Marianne Martens NorthSouth. $15.95 (ages 4-8)

Jackie is having a birthday party, and Little Donkey and his mama go out to buy him a present. Surprise! Little Donkey picks something -- an enormous kite -- that is so splendid he can't bear to give it away. Not even to Jackie, who, by the way, is a yak. Mama Donkey is wise to her boy's tricks ("I want to stay home. My tummy hurts." "All right, then. We'll just go, give him the present, and then we'll come straight home. . . . Of course you won't be able to have any cake.") The resolution of this mini-crisis is satisfying, but what really makes the book shine is Annemarie van Haeringen's illustrations. Spare and whimsical, they have the look of Nepal. Don't miss the double spread in which the party guests wend their way up a steep path to the yaks' mountaintop pad, where colorful prayer flags are strung from peak to peak.

Also recommended for gift-giving: Leslie Patricelli's The Birthday Box (Candlewick, $15.99; ages 2-4), in which a diaper-clad birthday boy is as charmed and inspired by the box his present came in as he is by the present. Wrapping paper included.

A PROMISE IS A PROMISEBy Florence Parry Heide Candlewick. $15.99 (ages 4-8)

In another familiar clash, George whines and wheedles until his parents agree to let him have a pet. Problem is, every pet he brings home has disqualifying shortcomings. The dog sheds and jumps up on people and has to be let in and out. The mouse "multiplies." The shark is "too unusual," and besides, it has such big teeth. In the end, George wins a promise: He can have a bird, no ifs or buts. Enter Horatio, the loudest, frankest, bossiest parrot ever, who in a jiffy has newspaper-reading Dad and hand-wringing Mom firmly in their place. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Tony Auth did the very funny drawings.

THE FLYING BEDBy Nancy Willard Blue Sky. $16.99 (ages 4-8)

This is a lopsided sort of book. The story, by a Newbery Medal-winner, is a cautionary tale: A greedy Florentine baker acquires a magical flying bed that turns his fortunes around -- until he proves unworthy of it. It's convoluted, perplexing and, truth be told, a bit preachy. But, oh, John Thompson's pictures! People will have to fight the urge to tear out and frame the paintings of the terrified baker and his wife soaring in their bed above the terra cotta rooftops of old Florence or spinning over the sunset-tinged Arno.

Elizabeth Ward can be reached at

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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